Wednesday 23 August 2017

Bernard Dunne and former Irish rugby coach Eddie O'Sullivan in battle for top boxing job

EXCLUSIVE

Bernard Dunne and Eddie O'Sullivan
Bernard Dunne and Eddie O'Sullivan
Bernard Dunne in attendance during the 2017 IABA Elite Boxing Championship finals in the National Stadium, Dublin. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

The vacant High-Performance Director's job with the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) looks set to be a heavyweight clash with former Irish rugby coach Eddie O'Sullivan and former world boxing champion Bernard Dunne heavily linked with the position.

It is understood that 58-year-old O'Sullivan, who led Ireland to three Triple Crowns and Test victories over South Africa and Australia, has already been interviewed along with former WBA Super Bantamweight world title holder Dunne (28-2).

The pair could go head-to-head for the role, which has been vacant since Gary Keegan quit shortly after the 2008 Olympics, and it is believed boxing authorities received up to 20 applications (deadline was February 20) with initial interviews taking place late last month.

The job description read as follows, according to the IABA website: "The HPD will have ultimate responsibility for all elements of the National High-Performance Plan. The HPD will report directly to the IABA Chief Executive Officer.

"He/she will be responsible for leading and managing a team of dedicated High-Performance Coaches and Support Staff to deliver on agreed targets set out for the IABA's High-Performance Programme."

O'Sullivan has been out of management since parting ways with French side Biarritz in September 2015 when a disappointing start to their Pro D2 campaign left them well off their intended return to the Top14 and led to the termination of his two-year deal.

Former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Dunne (37), winner of 13 national boxing titles as an amateur, is working as a performance and lifestyle coach with the all-conquering Dublin footballers for the past four years and it remains to be seen if this role would be relinquished if successful.

It's an unlikely duel between two high-profile figures in Irish sport and, interestingly, Dunne's world title defeat of Ricardo Cordoba in Dublin's O2 Arena on March 21, 2009, came the same day that Ireland, under O'Sullivan's replacement Declan Kidney, won the Grand Slam.

The interview process has yet to conclude, but it is expected the position will be filled before June's European Men's Championships in Ukraine, which is followed by the World Championships in Germany in August/September.

The Irish boxing team meet Russia, France, Germany and Italy in Dublin later this month as part of their training plan for the European Championships as they try to rebuild following the major departures of Olympic stars Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes to the professional ranks.

The controversial exit of head coach Billy Walsh to the USA boxing team also rocked Irish boxing in 2015 with Walsh touted as a potential successor to Keegan as High-Performance Director, but the position was not filled at that time.

Irish Independent

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